I thought it was time to share my take on information management and why it is important for your organization.
Most organizations have their key processes well focused. They know how to do business and succeed in the market.
Mature organizations apply enterprise architecture patterns, a good call if you ask me. Large banks and number-crunching organizations alike are seriously getting their feet wet (and sometimes drowning) in data warehouse setups and intelligent analytics. A minority are already starting to peek at new advancements in business process paradigms. These professionalizations help ensure future profitability by managing under-the-hood resources.
And I can confirm that these strategies and tactics will make your organization better, more professional and are worth their buck. However, I still see an abundance of organizations fail at valuing their information.
Setting up an intranet or collaboration site is not what I’m getting at, nor is designing ERP systems or data warehouses in itself. I’m talking about real information management programs that encompass corporate vision and strategy to attain business goals. Goals like:
- Reduce strategic project budget spills
- Make sure 95% of employee on-boarding tasks get done before deadline
- Provide customers insight into their complaint process
Attaining these goals cannot be done from day one. It takes workshops, where you actually need to rethink your current processes around information. Setting up a road map to get there.
But why, you may ask.
Because information is scattered around the organization, both online and offline. The amount of companies that still heavily rely on paper trails is incredible. And even when you think you’re being “digital”, you may still have a lot of out-of-process information that stays inside e-mailboxes. Employees come and go, and so does your information with them.Also, much of the information is not in context. It sits in a mailbox all alone, or is crying in a corner of (one of) your ERP system(s). Information leads to knowledge only be the interpretation of your employees. But if information is out of context or scattered all around, it takes employees more time to reach their conclusions and gain knowledge. This frustrates many employees, at times where employee engagement is a hot topic and employers want to keep their engaged employees in their inner circle.
Information storage also costs money. Not a lot, but it costs. Most organizations can cut on those costs by thinking about archival and records management as well as just cleaning out duplicates. The mere effort on thinking about it will cost more than you’ll save today. But we’re aiming at long-term strategies rather than just focusing on the quick wins.
What I’ve also seen a lot is corporate culture not recognizing that we live in a collaborative world where hiding information from one another is counterproductive, and is the basis for duplicate work. There is no single truth and no single location. I am yet to be convinced that this approach will actually make you take good decisions.
From my experience, information management is not on the agenda, at least with most companies. But information is in fact your key asset. Without it, you’ll lose from your competitors and have no insight into your markets or internal research. You’ll have no knowledge in fact. And its this knowledge that forms the basis of your strategic decisions. Decisions that aim to reach your business goals.
So to attain these goals, get a grip on your information: what do you have, where is it stored, who owns it? Enrich it by adding context to it, centralizing if needed. Then use intelligent techniques like search and multi-dimensional views to provide multiple entry points into your information. Together with smart dashboards, you’ll provide your employees with insight, and they’ll extract knowledge from that, which will help them to (e.g.):
- Track project budget by integrating time sheet reporting, resources costs and planned costs in one dashboard.
- Streamline the on-boarding process with basic tasks and reaching the entire organization during this process.
- Engage with customers in concise portals which will also reduce phone conversations, e-mail clutter and allow for more self-service.
I’m not writing this blog post to sell anything. I just hope it reaches the right people to start thinking differently about information within their organization. It’s not only about public facing results. It’s mainly about awareness and investing your future in the information era.
And I’d like to end with one of my typical quotes, which my customers will probably start hating by now:
Information management is 80% about people, 15% about good design and only 5% about automation and technology.
(Thanks to AIIM research for pointing that out years ago, it’s still as applicable as it has ever been)